One of the biggest challenge with so many students is retention. The topic is huge in education and there are no perfect solutions to solve all retention problems. However from years of teaching math I have come to believe that there are 3 main things that teachers and parents can do to really help promote retention.
As a homeschooling parent you need to know how to increase your child’s math retention and it’s much more involved than simply “rote” memorization. Now I do think there is a place for rote memorization and your child should be using things like flash cards to help them retain. Also doing lots of practice problems on a regular basis is another fundamental that all parents should be doing with their homeschooler. What I want to focus on is 3 main areas where you need to focus on if you really want to “super charge” your child’s math retention. Ok lets get started with our first item- note taking.
1. Note Taking
Does your child take notes? If not then you need to have them start immediately. The process of note taking is excellent for retention. During note taking a student’s mind will focus on transferring information from a chalkboard or computer screen onto their paper. The actual physical mechanics of writing down notes is creating a memory path in our brains. Also the better your child’s notes are organized and structured the better their long term retention and memory become. I have seen it over and over through many years of teaching; students that take great notes are the best test takers and get the best grades. So if your child is struggling with retention take a look at their notes and increase the standard of what you will accept as “good note taking”.
2. Teach Back
Teach back is one the most effective things you can do to improve your child’s retention. Basically “teach back” is having a child teach something or explain something back to you. Example let’s say you just finished studying how to add fractions and you want to check your child’s understanding and retention. You would say “ok Bill can you teach me exactly how to add these two fractions? Just think of me as one of your friends that needs your help”. Now your child becomes the teacher and you evaluate their explanations back to you and correct any wrong information.
In this example your child would hopefully say something like “well to add two fractions the denominators need to be the same. If the denominators are the same then add the numerators…..” You as the parent need to be looking for detailed and correct explanations of the procedure. Many studies on retention suggest we remember the things we can teach the best. Listen I’m sure if you asked your child how to operate a X-Box game they could give you a Harvard speech on the topic. So don’t be afraid to put your child in a position to be a teacher when it comes to math. One last thing about teach back- take it slow and don’t lower your standards. You always want your child to teach exact procedures and if they can’t keep giving them feedback until they improve and can teach the topic back in a confident manner.
3. Spot Review
Ah yes the good old fashion pop quiz or review. Indeed reviewing is a must in math and you should add it to your regular program of study just like you add a little salt to your food- here and there. My suggestion for reviewing is don’t over do it another words pick a problem or two from a previous chapter and have your child do it. Do not practice “drill and kill” the approach where you give your child a 10,000 problem worksheet on adding decimals so they master it. First your child will end up hating math and second it’s just ineffective over kill. Be smart when you review and keep your child on alert that they could be tested on old material anytime. Like all of us if we don’t “use it we lose it” so clearly spot reviewing is another essential ingredient for increased retention.
There is a big difference between doing well on a test right after you learn the material to doing well on the same test a month later. As a homeschool parent you need to actively promote your child’s retention. Don’t assume that your child is retaining just because they are getting good grades – true mastery and retention needs to be evaluated far after your child takes a test. As such you need to make sure your child is taking detailed notes and practices teaching back what they learned to you. As you plan your lessons make sure to add a problem or two from a previous chapter. I promise if you make these suggestions a habit in your regular instruction your child’s retention will jump big time.